October 11th, 2019

Winter Sunlight

Wiseguy (1987 TV)

I'm watching Wiseguy with [personal profile] rachelmanija and [personal profile] iknowcommawrite. It's a first watch for them, but a rewatch for me. We are just through the end of the first arc (the Steelgrave arc). If you've seen it before, please, no spoilers past the last episode of the Steelgrave arc (1x09) in comments!

If you haven't heard of this show, it's good! The general premise is that the protagonist is an FBI agent (well, TV-FBI-knockoff, I think) and goes undercover in organized crime, making connections with people and then having to betray them; the show also deals extensively with his family/friends, his FBI handlers, etc. Featuring a much younger but strangely not actually that young-looking Jonathan Banks, Jim Byrnes in the first role I ever saw him in (long before Highlander), a brief appearance by a very young David Marciano, and (in a future arc) Kevin Spacey; I'm sorry, but at least he's evil so you can hate him.

I think I'm continually surprised on rewatches how good it still is. The one area where the show feels really dated is how it handles its female characters (NEEDS MOAR WOMEN) but otherwise it's smart and well-written and compelling, with great character arcs; you tend to forget you're watching an 80s show instead of a modern Netflix crime show until you see the cars or the women's hairstyles. It was one of the first primetime shows to do complicated multi-episode story arcs rather than one-off episodes, and it's interesting to watch it from that perspective because on the one hand, it's part of what makes the show so good, but it's also interesting to watch them kind of figure it out, and remember that we're still in the Jurassic period for ongoing serialized TV, as opposed to the DVD/Netflix era when it's all like that now.

I first watched this show when it aired on TV from about 1987-1990. I was quite young then (early teens) but it really made an impression on me. I didn't enjoy it as much as I do now because the show was really too twisty, complicated, and dark for an 11-year-old, but one thing that DID make a huge impression on me was some of the h/c and found-family aspects of the show, which I still remembered clearly (and fairly accurately, as it turned out) when I finally dug it up and did a full rewatch back in 2009.

For a long while this show was really hard to get, but it's now available on Amazon Prime (minus one story arc in season 2 that they couldn't clear the music rights for). Most of the episodes are also up for free on Youtube, though I couldn't find a playlist where they're not at least a little bit out of order, so pay attention to the episode numbers if you watch it that way.

Season 1:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfXgaTPBYt0&list=PLFtpZ659RpvG6FIm1t5rjw-k9f2QNL-ZZ

Season 2 (has the 1st and 2nd eps reversed; I'm linking to the 2nd one which is actually the first one):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x81CHMOP38&list=PLK6gxVQHNBHbMVrKAWEcCvdI6cGrnNGGR&index=2

Season 3 (COMPLETELY out of order; Youtube why - though again, they're well labeled; linking to ep 1):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9uR8P4HIS8&list=PLK6gxVQHNBHZxI5ZpjHjMcesJUWjd_qZO&index=3

There is a season 4 but it's terrible. They completely changed both the setting and the protagonist, and it's a whole different show. I decided to rewatch the first episode of season 4 the other day for the first time since probably about 1989, just to see if it's really terrible or if it's just the betrayed feelings of wee!me coloring my impressions of it, and ... NOPE. Wee!me wasn't wrong. Stop at the end of season three.

And again, no spoilers past the Steelgrave arc in comments, please!

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